Silk Road towns in China
Kashgar is a vibrant Islamic centre and the largest oasis town in China’s Central Asia. Its history spans over 2000 years and its importance derives from its strategic positions at the foot of the Pamir Mountains allowing access of the Silk Road routes to Central Asia. Its mosque – the largest in China, can host as many as 10,000 worshipers on the busy praying times.
If you are on Sunday you can also visit to the colourful and chaotic Kashgar’s Great Sunday Bazaar. In this bustling place you will have a great choice of local goods: such as livestock, jewellery, clothes, carpets. You will have a great opportunity to practise your negotiation skills, absolutely vital for your travel on the old trading route. Rub shoulders with the locals; try your art of bargaining, striking a deal and buying something not really essential!
Hotan - an important station on the southern branch of the historic Silk Road. The oasis of Hotan was strategically located at the junction of the southern (and most ancient) branch of the famous “Silk Route” joining China and the West with one of the main routes from ancient India and Tibet to Central Asia and distant China.
Hotan was well known for producing finest silk carpets in world. The carpet and silk factories are worth visiting as well as Jade factory (Hotan was also very famous for jade mines too)
Kucha is known for famous Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves (5th and 6th century AD) which are located 75km (46miles) from Kucha and form one of the earliest treasure troves of Buddhist art in China as well as one of the four largest cave systems in China. There are presently 236 coded caves, divided into west and inner valley and rear mountain areas extending over 3 kilometres (1.86 miles). It takes about 2 hours to see the caves and learn about local Buddhist culture.
Kucha was in ancient times Buddhist kingdom located on the branch of the Silk Road that ran along the northern edge of the Taklamakan Desert in the Tarim Basin and south of the Muzat River. For a long time Kucha was the most populous oasis in the Tarim Basin. Other sites in Kucha - grand mosque which was built in 17th century which is the only mosque to have preserved the Shariya (Islamic Court) in China.
Turpan has long been an important trade centre and fertile oasis located along the Silk Road. Nearby Turpen are situated impressive ruins of Gaochang, an ancient city (approx. 47 km), built in the 2nd century BC, once the capital of the Kingdom of Gaochang under the Han dynasty. Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves (approx. 56 km) hidden on the flanks of the Flaming Mountains – a breathtaking site with 67 caves dating from 317 to 1368. Translated from the Uygur language as a “place of the paintings”, Bezeklik was an important centre for Buddhist worship. Sadly most of the cave paintings are now in a terrible state but nevertheless this place is definitely worth a visit. Tuyoq – a beautiful ancient village with the oldest in the Turpan area, Buddhist caves dating back to the 4th century.
In the early days of the Silk Road, Dunghuang was an important trading centre, with the Great Wall extension. The city was fortified with a line of beacon towers stretching westward into the dessert and became the key support base for caravans.
Dunghuang is famous for Mogao Caves – the world’s richest treasure-trove of Buddhist manuscripts, wall paintings and statuary dating back to 4th up to 14th century; created during nine dynasties they mark the height of Buddhist art. Mingsha “rumbling” sand dunes, which indeed sound like thunder as the sand sweeps over them, overlooking small and mysterious Crescent Lake. This place offers arguably the best sunset view and the most stunning desert scenery that you will encounter along the entire length of the Silk Road.